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Funded grassroots dementia projects thriving

Read more below about some of the fantastic projects funded via the ESGA fund and the difference they have made to the lives of people affected by dementia.

The Forget Me Notes Project’s creatively organised choirs

ESGA Funded projects

The Forget Me Notes Project is a singing group which aims to create inclusive choirs for everyone, including people living with dementia.

The organisation is based in Edinburgh and hosts weekly sessions alternating between Saughton Park and The Salvation Army on Gorgie Road.

It also runs an online Zoom choir which attracts participants from across the UK.

While these choirs had already been running for two years, it was only when funding from About Dementia was secured last year that the choirs became weekly offerings, enabling them to recruit new volunteers to provide assistance to members.

Alan Midwinter, chief executive of The Forget Me Notes Project, said: “The grant was used to consolidate our work and make it consistent, we wouldn’t be able to keep it going as much without it.”

On a warm sunny day Alan says between 70 to 80 people usually turn up at the outdoor Choir In The Park, including many people living with dementia and unpaid carers.

On colder or wet days, the group move into the park’s glasshouse to sing.

Alan added: “People with dementia who attend our choirs get a sense of achievement, community involvement, its inclusive for people who might be genuinely isolated.”

Harlawhill Day Care Centre’s art and fitness classes

Harlawhill day care

Harlawhill Day Care Centre, in Prestonpans near Edinburgh, was able to unlock centre members’ creativity using money awarded through the ESGA fund.

The day centre, which is accessed via a referral service, currently supports people over the age of 70 with varying needs, including many living with dementia.

After acquiring the ESGA fund last year, staff at the centre have introduced regular arts and crafts workshops and chair fitness sessions, both with external teachers.

While these activities had been tried by staff members previously, some people with dementia struggled to follow the instructions.

Now staff are available to support everyone to get the best out of the classes.

Ewan McMillan, volunteer trustee at Harlawhill Day Care Centre, said: "It’s a really good grant for us. It allows us to pay for the fun activities.

“We want to make it fun for them and seeing the end result – they’re getting so much from it.

“The arts and craft classes are very popular, some of them have really taken to watercolour.”

Ewan added that the chair fitness sessions have made a big difference to members’ fitness levels and some of the participants can now use an exercise ball and even get up and dance.

Social cooking at Tales From Our Kitchen Table

Tales from our kitchenAnother beneficiary was Tales From Our Kitchen Table, a project led by social enterprise Sharing a Story CIC and Dunbar Dementia Carers Group.

The project offers monthly cooking sessions for members of the dementia group with a food-based theme such as pizza or curry.

Writer and facilitator Dr Lorna Hill, who leads Sharing a Story CIC, reads a piece of writing or poem connected to the theme and encourages others to chat about their related experiences.

Lorna said: “It’s really about the process rather than the output, coming together socially and connecting with each other and the community.

“I’ve noticed a change in people’s confidence, they’re more confident when sharing stories and more people are offering to demonstrate.

“They have a nice rapport, they’re all enthusiastic, there’s lots of laughing and chatting – we all really enjoy it.”

The project is funded solely through the ESGA grant issued by About Dementia last year.

When funding comes to an end this year, a recipe book including participants’ stories will be published and sold locally to generate funds for the carers group.

Intergenerational focus at St Madoes and Kinfauns dementia support group

St madoesAnother beneficiary was St Madoes and Kinfauns Parish Church, in Perthshire, which runs a weekly dementia support group.

The group is attended by around 20 people living with dementia and unpaid carers and has used its ESGA grant to create strong links with St Madoes Primary School.

Staff from the centre visited the school to carry out dementia awareness training with P7s, and the pupils then attended the group sessions and helped with activities.

Anthea Bircham, the centre’s community development coordinator, said: “The kids are very quick to take things on board and think about how someone with dementia might experience things.

“It’s the highlight of their week when they come here. They take part in the activities and are really enthusiastic and that rubs off on our group members.

“Our members enjoy having the kids around and start to open up. They build up relationships with them and adapt to their different personalities.”

The grant also allowed the centre to offer more varied activities for group members, from craft workshops and physical exercises to musical events.

Bonding experiences at Mearns Kirk Helping Hands

Mearns Kirk

Mearns Kirk Helping Hands, in Newton Mearns, outside Glasgow, which runs a weekly dementia friendly café, also received an ESGA grant in 2022.

The café, called Monday Meet Ups, is attended by around 30 people living with dementia and unpaid carers and hosts a variety of activities.

Members are encouraged to suggest activities which so far have included singing, dancing and a fairground themed event with games such as hook the duck and a tin can alley.

Vicky Attwood, project manager at Mearns Kirk Helping Hands, said: “One man told us that his wife will not engage with any activities at home, saying they are stupid, while she spent 20 minutes concentrating on hook a duck [here].

“He said there’s something about the atmosphere here that changes his wife.”

Friendships have been formed between sets of people living with dementia and carers, says Vicky, and some of them meet up outside of the group.

She added: “It’s been a real joy to see our members gaining confidence to share their talents to bring happiness to others, build friendships and have so much fun.”

The project was newly formed using money from the ESGA grant and organisers intend to continue running it beyond the funded year.